Introduction To The Gospel of MarkMark's record is the shortest of all the Gospel accounts. This enables the reader to grasp more of an overall understanding of Jesus' life than is readily available in the other Gospels. Mark, unlike Matthew, did not write his Gospel to the Jews only. Explanations are given throughout this Gospel that would be unnecessary if all the readers were Jewish. For instance, when Mark mentioned Jordan in Mr 1:5, he referred to it as "the river of Jordan." Also, in Mr 2:18, he gave an explanation of some of the Pharisees' traditions, which occasioned their question. Mr 11:13 reveals that the time of figs was not yet. This would be unnecessary to say to a Jew who was familiar with the climate of Jerusalem during the feast of the Passover. All of these examples point to this Gospel being written to, or at least to include, a Gentile audience.
a. Internal evidence: There is no internal evidence that proves Mark's authorship. There is a reference to "a certain young man" who was present in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mr 14:51-52). It has been supposed that this seemingly insignificant event was recorded because it was about the author, Mark. Mark was the only writer who recorded this. We do know that Mark lived in Jerusalem (Ac 12:12), and use of the word "certain" implies that this was a particular young man who was being pointed out. This reasoning is interesting and could be accurate, but it is not sufficient proof to establish Mark as the author of this Gospel.
b. External evidence: There is an abundance of evidence outside of the Gospel itself to indicate Mark as having written this Gospel. As with Matthew (see Life for Today Study Bible Notes, Introduction to Matthew, Authorship, b. External evidence), such widespread acceptance of Mark as the author so close to his own lifetime and ministry shows that his family and converts did not contest his authorship and gives further credibility to this belief.
Eusebius (A.D. 330) quoted Papias (A.D. 130) as saying, "Mark, being the interpreter of St. Peter, wrote down exactly whatever things he remembered, yet not in the order in which Christ either spoke or did them; for he was neither a hearer nor a follower of our Lord, but he was afterwards a follower of St. Peter."
Jerome, writing in A.D. 384, said, "St. Mark, the interpreter of the Apostle, St. Peter, and the first bishop of the Church of Alexandria, related what things he heard his master preaching, rather according to the truth of the facts, than according to the order of the things that were done."
Jerome went on to say that Mark wrote a short Gospel at Rome at the request of the brethren there. Peter approved of it and appointed it to be read in the churches by his authority.
These and other references show the early church's general acceptance of Mark as the author of the second Gospel, and so it is permissible for us to assume the same.
Date of Writing
a. Internal evidence: Nothing within the Gospel itself points to a date when it was written.
b. External evidence: As has already been noted in the quote from Jerome, Mark is recorded as having written his Gospel in Rome. Scholars date that as being approximately A.D. 62-63. Different sources date this Gospel from A.D. 57-68.
About the Author
a. Internal information: Mark is referred to in Scripture ten times. He is called Mark (Ac 15:39 and 2Ti 4:11); John, whose surname was Mark (Ac 12:12, 25; and 15:37); John (Ac 13:5 and 13); and Marcus (Col 4:10, Phm 24, and 1Pe 5:13). The names Mark, and John whose surname was Mark, and John all refer to the one we now commonly call Mark, which is evident by comparing these references in Ac. It can also be shown that Marcus was this same Mark by comparing 2Ti 4:11 with Phm 24. Marcus was simply the Greek form of Mark.
It is generally accepted that the Marcus spoken of in 1Pe 5:13 is also Mark, and there is much external evidence to support this (see Life for Today Study Bible Notes, Introduction to Mark, About the Author, b. External information, quotes from Papias and Jerome). Mark lived in Jerusalem (Ac 12:12), and his mother's name was Mary. He is not mentioned in the Gospels, which might suggest he was converted after Jesus' crucifixion. This is a view supported by external sources (see Life for Today Study Bible Notes, Introduction to Mark, Authorship, b. External evidence, quote by Papias).
It was at Mark's house that the early church met to pray for Peter's release from prison and where Peter first came after his miraculous release (Ac 12:12). There is no record to imply that Peter had been told where the saints were praying, so it is in order to believe that Mark's house was a common gathering place for the brethren.
The Scripture doesn't mention Mark as being present at any of these times, but it is probable that he was, and if not, he at least heard of them through his mother, Mary.
Col 4:10 reveals that Mary, Mark's mother, was the sister of Barnabas, Paul's companion. That made Barnabas Mark's uncle.
Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey but left them suddenly at Perga and returned to Jerusalem for reasons not revealed in Scripture (Ac 12:25; 13:5, and 13). Because of this, Paul refused to heed Barnabas' counsel to take Mark with them on their second missionary journey, and this resulted in Barnabas and Paul parting company (Ac 15:36-40). Later, however, Paul mentioned Mark as being with him (Col 4:10 and Phm 24) and even requested Timothy bring Mark to him, saying, "He is profitable to me for the ministry" (2Ti 4:11).
Peter also spoke of Mark in 1Pe 5:13 and said, "The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son." It is generally agreed that Mark was not Peter's natural son but that this is used in a spiritual sense even as Paul spoke of Timothy (1Ti 1:2). This scripture reveals that Mark was definitely close to Peter and was with him in Babylon.
b. External information: Two quotes have already been given (one by Papias and one by Jerome) that Mark was the interpreter of Peter. Irenaeus and Tertullian also used the same word to describe Mark's relationship to Peter. From this, it is surmised that Mark either translated orally or wrote for Peter.
Jerome, as has already been quoted, said of Mark that his Gospel was approved of Peter and appointed to be read in the churches at his authority.
Eusebius said that Mark wrote his Gospel under the eye of St. Peter. These remarks, if correct, would give a natural explanation as to how Mark was able to record events in the life of Jesus from an eyewitness standpoint. One thing is certain; Mark enjoyed a close relationship with Peter and Paul, which should have uniquely qualified him to write this Gospel.
Jerome went on to say that Mark took his Gospel to Egypt and became the first preacher of Christ at Alexandria and is supposed to have established a church there.
Eusebius also stated that Mark became the first bishop of the church at Alexandria and that he founded a school there. Eusebius also stated that he died a martyr's death at Alexandria.